Author Archives: commongroundkansas

About commongroundkansas

Consumers aren't getting the real story about American agriculture. We're a group of farm women and we plan to change that by doing something extraordinary. Our program is called CommonGround and it's all about starting a conversation between women who grow food, and the women who buy it. This is our chance to set the record straight and to help get you the facts about farming and your food. We hope you'll join in the conversation.

Flow Yoga on the Farm Benefits Just Food, Connects Farmers and Grocery Shoppers

We kicked off summer with our first-ever Flow Yoga on the Farm on Saturday, June 3, in a gorgeous green pasture just east of Lawrence. The weather was perfect! Thanks to the nearly 70 guests who came together for this beautiful yoga practice and food drive. Together, we raised more than $300 for Just Food and filled an entire barrel with food donations that will benefit community members in need.

After some sweat and savasana in the early summer sun, we enjoyed a fresh brunch with a make-your-own yogurt parfait bar, pastries, juice and milk from Hildebrand Farms Dairy (the farm of CommonGround volunteer Melissa Hildebrand Reed).

We had a blast trying out some new yoga poses with instructor Cherish Wood of Kansas City. We might leave that challenging crow pose to the birds flying over our fields, but we had such fun and walked away with a good sweat. The shade was very welcome after our practice!

Farmer volunteers Frances Graves, Kim Baldwin and LaVell Winsor shared the most commonly asked questions about their farms. If you didn’t get a chance to visit with them after the practice, you can learn more about their farms here. They’re also available to answer questions that might pop up down the road, too. That’s what we’re all here for!

Special thanks to Lowell and Krystale Neitzel and their family for hosting us on their beautiful ranch land. You can learn more about their farm on Facebook. They’re known for their sweet corn, so don’t miss out on that later this summer. Yum!

Our farmer volunteers enjoyed connecting with folks in the Lawrence area and talking about how we raise food on our Kansas farms and ranches. Often, food and farming are divisive topics, but this event was full of positivity and great questions about all shapes and sizes of farms, which is what CommonGround stands for. We’re all about sharing our love for our land and our animals. If you have a question about how farmers and ranchers raise your food, we’re always here to chat so you can feel more confident in your food choices.

Learn more about the national CommonGround program at findourcommonground.com. Don’t forget to like CommonGround Kansas on Facebook and on Instagram at @commongroundks for details on future events.

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Farmers Share Tasty Bites With Bloggers

Farmer Kim Baldwin joined in virtually to share about her farm in central Kansas

The digital worlds of bloggers and farmers collided in a hip office space in Kansas City’s Crossroads District on Thursday, May 4, for a dinner hosted by GBS Influence. This exclusive event allowed small selection of invited bloggers an opportunity to meet the farm women growing food, while enjoying great discussion about farming and food over a beautiful meal.

The event was a partnership between GBS Influence, formerly of the GoBlogSocial conference, and the volunteer farm women of CommonGround. The evening began with mingling and introductions before guests were treated to a gorgeous antipasto and charcuterie spread, a kale, apple and chicken salad, and gluten-free cookies with l0cal milk from Hildebrand Farms Dairy.

After the meal, guests took a few moments to complete a discussion guide, carefully considering the information they use to make food choices. Then, the group joined in a discussion about farming and food, with questions answered by CommonGround volunteers LaVell Winsor and Kim Baldwin, who joined us virtually from her farm.

Guests also received a booklet detailing each volunteer’s background, contact information and a recipe, as well as a CommonGround branded kitchen pack, including a spatula, measuring cup, cutting mat and towel.

One blogger and their guest will win a private tour of Kansas farms. The winner will be announced May 19. We can’t wait to see who it is! 

Thanks to GBS Influence and Shining Star Catering in making the night very Instagram-worthy!

We especially want to thank all the bloggers who joined us for a productive discussion about farming and food!

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Panel Discusses Farming & Food with Nutrition Professionals

Nutrition professionals joined farmers and researchers for a panel discussion prior to the Kansas Nutrition Council annual meeting.

About 50 nutrition professionals gathered Wednesday, Apr. 26, for conversation over drinks and hors d’oeuvres prior to the Kansas Nutrition Council annual meeting at the DoubleTree in Overland Park, KS. The event featured a panel discussion with farmers and researchers about how food is raised. The panel featured Dr. Dan Thomson, K-State Veterinary Medicine; Scott Thelman, Juniper Hill Farms, Lawrence, KS; LaVell Winsor, farmer, Grantville, KS; and Dr. Tom Clemente, University of Nebraska Plant Science.

CommonGround Kansas partnered with Kansas Pork and Kansas Farm Bureau to host the event. Guests were able to view a model pig barn and also use virtual reality glasses to see the inside of a pig barn. They also were able to talk one-on-one with farmers from around Kansas. 

Visit our Facebook page to watch the replay of the panel discussion via Facebook Live.

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Farmers and Ranchers Join Shocker Fans for a Day at the Ballpark

Kansas farmers and ranchers greeted Shocker baseball fans with souvenir cups of lemonade and fan giveaways during the Wichita State vs. Southern Illinois baseball game on Sunday, Apr. 9, at Eck Stadium in Wichita. Fans had a great view of the action from the right field pavilion, where they were able to get their farming and food questions answered by the families who raise crops and livestock on their nearby farms.

Three lucky families — Brandi Rice, Sonia Payne and Elisa Valencia — won four-packs of tickets to the game through a contest on the CommonGround Kansas Facebook page.

Fans also enjoyed giveaways including pom poms and sunglasses. Volunteers Kim Baldwin, Janna Splitter and Katie Sawyer welcomed fans to the pavilion and answered questions about their farms.

The cups of lemonade weren’t just a welcome refreshment for a sunny spring day. They were also a great illustration of how much weed killer is applied to an acre of cropland. Tyler Field is about two acres, so if it was a field growing crops, farmers would only apply about two lemonades’ worth of weed killer to the area. The visual reference offers an enlightening comparison to understand how little weed killer is prescribed and mixed with water to be applied to a large area.

CommonGround is a national volunteer-based organization that connects grocery shoppers with the farmers and ranchers who raise their food.

Grocery shoppers have more food choices — and questions — than ever before, yet few personally know a farmer or rancher they can feel comfortable having that dialogue with. Sourcing credible information on food production can be especially challenging with the abundance of conflicting information online. CommonGround offers an opportunity to go straight to the source.

CommonGround aims to help grocery shoppers make more fearless food choices by building connections with farmers and ranchers, providing opportunities to ask questions and offering links to resources rooted in science.

Learn more at findourcommonground.com.

Love for the land, our families, our friends and our food – that’s what fuels our CommonGround community. CommonGround is funded by America’s corn and soybean farmers. Learn more at findourcommonground.com.

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Farm to Fork Student Social Pairs Food, Fun and Farming for Midterm Study Break

Farmer Kim Baldwin talks about her family farm to K-State dietetics students.

Study breaks are especially welcome during busy weeks like this one, in which K-State students are busy with midterms and counting down to spring break. CommonGround hosted the K-State Student Dietetics Association monthly meeting with a special Farm to Fork Student Social Tuesday, Mar. 7, at the Bluemont Hotel in Manhattan, KS.

CommonGround volunteers Kim Baldwin and Melissa Hildebrand Reed kicked off the evening by sharing about their family farms. Kim raises crops and beef cattle on her farm near McPherson, KS, while Melissa works on a multi-generational dairy farm near Junction City, KS, that sells its glass-bottled milk in local markets. Agriculture students from K-State’s Food for Thought organization also briefly described their own family farms and unique areas of expertise, including swine, goat and sheep production.

Students enjoyed appetizers featuring ingredients made from Kansas-grown crops and livestock, including salsa and white corn chips, barbecue meatballs, chicken strips, veggies and ranch dressing, and chocolate chip cookies with a special ingredient: sorghum flour.

The menu included clues for a game of Farm to Fork Bingo, which featured a critical thinking exercise about the ingredients in the food, as well as a hunt for food facts around the room and opportunities to ask questions of farmers. The students also posted sticky notes with their answers to the statement, “When I think about today’s agriculture, I wonder …” The first five students to get bingo each received a prize pack including a CommonGround cutting mat, grocery bag, notepad and a $10 gift card to Radina’s Coffee House and Bakery.

The evening wrapped up with a Q&A session with the CommonGround farmers and Food for Thought students. Dietetics students left with a card listing helpful resources for future reference, such as BestFoodFacts.org, KansasFarmFoodConnection.org, and SafeFruitsandVeggies.com. They also took home a CommonGround spatula.

Special thanks to Food for Thought for helping make the event a success and to the K-State Student Dietetics Association for welcoming farmers to their meeting.

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Kansas Farms Highlighted at Hy-Vee Simple Fix Mini

img_5387Did you know much of the food you buy in the grocery store has a Kansas connection?

CommonGround Kansas hosted a Simple Fix Mini featuring Kansas-grown foods Tuesday, Feb. 21, at Topeka Hy-Vee. Guests enjoyed appetizers and wine, visited with Kansas farmers and prepared a three-course meal to take home and bake for their families.

The menu featured Southwest Avocado Ranch Salad, Layered Beef Enchiladas and Tres Leches Cake. Each recipe showcased connections to ingredients that are grown in Kansas, such as the wheat that goes into flour tortillas, corn that is fed to beef cattle and soybeans that are made into oil for salad dressing. The salad even featured grain sorghum as a topping.

Each work station was equipped with easy-to-follow recipes and all the prepared ingredients needed to create each dish.

Volunteers Melissa Hildebrand Reed, a dairy farmer near Junction City, and Laura Handke, a rancher near Atchison, visited with guests and answered questions about their farms. Guests also sampled flavors of milk from Hildebrand Family Dairy.

Hy-Vee dietitians Kylene Frost and Alyssa Gehle answered nutrition questions and served samples of the prepared meal.

The meal and event was sponsored by the farmers and ranchers of CommonGround Kansas. Ticket proceeds benefited Harvesters Community Food Network. Guests also brought canned and dry goods to donate.

Thank you to all who attended for the great discussions and for helping feed the hungry in our community!

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Less than a Lemonade

K-State football game

CommonGround Kansas volunteers talk to football fans during the Less than a Lemonade event before the K-State vs. Missouri State game on Sept. 24.

Have you ever wondered how much weed killer farmers apply to their fields? CommonGround Kansas volunteers answered that question with a helpful visual — a cup of lemonade and a football field — before the Kansas State vs. Missouri State football game in Manhattan, Kan., Sept. 24.

Football fans braved thunder and pouring rain during pre-game festivities, which included the “Celebrate Kansas Ag” tent near the southwest entrance to Bill Snyder Family Stadium. Volunteers Kim Baldwin, Karra James, Melissa Reed and LaVell Winsor handed out CommonGround reusable cups with servings of lemonade to demonstrate how little glyphosate is applied to an acre of crops, which is about the size of a football field.

As farmers, we only use what’s needed to control weeds. We use a small amount of herbicide, which gets diluted to the proper application rate by combining it with a large tank of water. You can rest easy when you see a sprayer in a field. Most of the liquid you see being applied to the crop is water.

Thanks to everyone who stopped by for conversation and refreshments! To learn more about how farmers raise crops, visit findourcommonground.com.

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Conversation Flows at “Dinner on the Farm”

dinner on the farm

by Laura Handke, CommonGround Kansas volunteer

Handke

Laura and Chris Handke, with daughter Audrey Ann, are proud to represent the fourth generation on Chris’ family farm near Atchison, KS.

Grain finished beef brisket, fresh-from-the-garden green beans, butter yourself (and lots of it, please) homegrown sweet corn and homemade dinner rolls preceded a perfectly crusted, vanilla ice cream topped peach cobbler—is your mouth watering yet—all from the farm and all the main topic of conversation at the Dinner on the Farm evening hosted by Bismarck Gardens, Lawrence, KS, on July 9.  It was a made-to-order event: a nice breeze beat the heat, the location was picture perfect and great conversation flowed throughout the event. It was a perfect evening!

Both the owners and employees who make Bismarck Gardens so successful, in cooperation with Kansas Corn, made sure that the evening was all about mingling, food, fun and lots of conversation! Farm owner Patrick Ross addressed the group right after the meal to talk about the farm, the dinner we had all just enjoyed and to thank everyone for coming and sharing in the evening.

I sat by a fun-loving couple from Shawnee Mission: she manages the produce department at HyVee and he is an Uber driver; a lively pair of BFFs in their eighties; and a young entrepreneurial couple from Arkansas who moved to Lawrence to grow their business of helping foreign students acclimate to a new environment, both academically and socially.  I couldn’t have hand-picked better conversations! We talked about the advantages of grain fed beef, nutrition, sweet corn versus field corn and how field corn is used, and the incredible feats agriculture technology has achieved in the past decade. We shared childhood stories of growing up on the farm — we all had farm roots, but most had long-since pursued lives in town.

As events go, I would have to say that this has been my favorite to participate in as a CommonGround volunteer. I was excited to have been invited to participate and even more excited by the thought of similar events in the future! These are the events that spark those touchy conversations that ignite interest, but with a farmer on hand to meet that interest with correct, factual and current resources and information. Way to go, Bismarck Farms and Kansas Corn, you hit the nail on the head with this event!

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“Farmland” documentary sparks questions on food, farming with dietitians

KSAND panel

Dr. Dan Thomson answers a question during the panel session following a viewing of the documentary “Farmland”

“Farmland” was the featured film during a special event held prior to the Kansas Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics annual meeting in Topeka Thursday, Apr. 14. Approximately 50 registered dietitians gathered to view the documentary, followed by drinks, hors d’oeuvres and a panel discussion featuring farmers and researchers.

Dietitian’s questions focused on GMOs, antibiotics, hormones, animal welfare and sustainability. Panelists shared real-life examples and research on these controversial topics to help equip the nutrition professionals with facts and resources to discuss the topics with their clients.

Panelists included:

  • Scotty Thelman owns Juniper Hill farms in Lawrence. He’s a young, first-generation farmer who grows organic and conventional crops. He also was recently featured in Kansas Living magazine.
  • Debbie Lyons-Blythe is a rancher from Morris County and mother of five. She began blogging in 2009 sharing what happens on her ranch and answering questions about her passions: “Kids, Cows and Grass!”
  • Dr. Dan Thomson is a professor in Kansas State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine and director of the Beef Cattle Institute. He is active on committees like McDonald’s Beef Health and Welfare Committee and Animal Welfare Advisory Board of the Food Marketing Institute.
  • Dr. Tom Clemente is a professor in the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Department of Agronomy and Horticulture. He runs the Clemente Lab studying functional genomics and using genetic engineering to create value added and disease control traits.
From left, Lana Barkman and Melissa Reed discussed their farming operations with dietitians during the event

From left, Lana Barkman and Melissa Reed discussed their farming operations with dietitians during the event

CommonGround volunteers Lana Barkman and Melissa Reed mingled with dietitians throughout the evening, discussing their own farming operations. Melissa’s family operates Hildebrand Dairy, which bottles and sells milk across northeast Kansas. Lana’s background is in beef cattle, horses, poultry and greenhouse production.

The event was hosted by the Kansas Farm Food Connection, a group of farmers and ranchers who bring delicious Kansas-grown food to your table. The KFFC includes Kansas Farm Bureau, Kansas Pork Association, Kansas Wheat, Midwest Dairy, Kansas Livestock Association, Kansas Soybean Commission, Kansas Grain Sorghum and Kansas Corn. CommonGround also lends support to the KFFC.

Attendees went home with a reusable grocery bag from CommonGround filled with goodies from the KFFC partners.

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Farmers, chefs, nutrition professionals unite for downtown restaurant crawl

Craig and Amy Good explain how they raise pigs to meet a unique niche market.

Craig and Amy Good explain how they raise pigs to meet a unique niche market.

CommonGround Kansas joined nutrition professionals, chefs and fellow farmers for a restaurant crawl in downtown Manhattan, Kan., on Wednesday, March 30.

The event preceded the Kansas Nutrition Council’s annual meeting, which gathers up to 150 Kansas professionals actively involved in nutrition education and health promotion. Their work takes place in colleges and universities, government agencies, cooperative extension, communications and public relations firms, the food industry, voluntary and service organizations and with other reliable places of nutrition and health education information.

About 65 participants visited three restaurants to sample a pairing of spirits and cuisine representing the Kansas farmers and ranchers who help produce it. Each group was escorted by Kansas farmers, including Michael and Christy Springer, who raise pork and row crops near Sycamore, Bob and Mary Mertz, who raise beef and row crops near Zeandale, and Jeff Grossenbacher, who raises row crops near Bern.

At Harry’s Restaurant, guests sampled wine and a prime strip loin with baguettes. They heard from executive chef Cadell Bynum, managing partner Evan Grier and farmers Glenn and Jennifer Brunkow, who raise crops and livestock near Westmoreland.

Tallgrass Taphouse featured pretzel breadsticks with a cheesy beer dipping sauce with a sample of a fruit-infused wheat beer. Brewmaster Brandon Gunn discussed the brewery’s history and rapid rise to success and wheat farmer Ken Wood shared how he raises wheat near Chapman.

At 4 Olives, guests enjoyed red wine with a savory Duroc pork belly over grits and heard from farmers Craig and Amy Good, who raised the meat near Olsburg. Chef Benjamin Scott discussed his restaurant’s relationship with the Goods and the inspiration behind the dish.

The groups reunited at the Tallgrass Taphouse Firkin Room for door prizes, beer flights and conversation to conclude the evening.

Funding Partners included the Kansas Pork Association, Kansas Farm Bureau and Kansas Wheat. Planning Partners included Midwest Dairy, Kansas Beef Council, Kansas Soybean Commission and CommonGround Kansas.

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